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5 reasons why I fell in love with cruise travel

Aug. 25, 2020
8 min read
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I grew up in the 1970s when the television show “The Love Boat” catapulted cruising into a popular vacation option in the U.S. But while I never missed an episode (especially if Charo was on) and enjoyed the show immensely, I never felt an overwhelming desire to take a cruise.

I’m more of a feet-in-the-sand beach type of girl, so the thought of being "trapped" on a large boat with a bunch of strangers did not originally appeal to me -- at all.

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Fast forward to November 2015, when Lauren, my best friend from college, called. She had been trying to get me on a cruise for years. This time, she put her foot down and insisted that I join her and our other friends on a cruise in January 2016.

She chose a five-day Princess Cruises sailing out of Fort Lauderdale. The jig was up for me, so I reluctantly paid for the cruise, booked a Southwest Airlines flight from Baltimore (BWI) to Fort Lauderdale (FLL) and crossed my fingers.

Related: Complete guide to cruising from Fort Lauderdale’s Port Everglades

We arrived the day before since we didn’t want to take any chances on missing the boat, and stayed at one of those kitschy Fort Lauderdale hotels near the beach. It was a great day.

(Photo by Benét J. Wilson/The Points Guy)

On embarkation day, I became apprehensive, thinking again about being trapped on a boat for five days. I’m sure if you look closely at the Princess port in Fort Lauderdale, you can still see the faint track marks from my fingernails as I was dragged onto the boat.

Related: Royal Caribbean just figured out how to improve the worst part of cruising

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But -- surprise -- I had a wonderful time. I went on a five-day Celebrity cruise in January 2019 and was planning a Norwegian cruise in June before the coronavirus pandemic hit. It was one of the best vacations of my life (and I’ve been around the world on some great ones).

Now is not the time to take a cruise and most lines aren't sailing. But when you are ready to set sail for the first time, there are many reasons why you might just fall in love with cruising. Here’s how this one-time cruise hater was converted into a big fan.

Related: When will cruising resume? A line-by-line guide

A vacation bargain

(Photo by Benét J. Wilson/The Points Guy)

Considering everything that comes included when you pay for a cruise -- dining, free nonalcoholic beverages and activities, the chance to stay in one room and more -- it can be a real bargain, especially for those who live near or are within driving distance of a port. But if you must fly to a port, you can still snag some great flight deals with proper planning.

Even after adding a drink package (mine cost $299.95 for five days) and the flight, the price can still beat five days at a Caribbean resort.

Related: Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings CEO shares his plan for a cruising comeback

Opportunities to meet new people

(Photo by Benét J. Wilson/The Points Guy)

I’m an extrovert, and I like meeting and interacting with new people. A cruise makes that much easier since so many travelers are thrown together in one space. This somehow makes them more open to conversations and even friendships.

One of my favorite memories from my first cruise was spending the day on the cruise line's private Princess Cays island with a bachelorette group from Mexico City. Other people-related highlights stand out. Every evening, we’d go to our favorite bar for a cocktail with bartenders Richard and Randy, who were great. I had afternoon tea with different groups of people every day, which led to me finding a great trivia team.

Plenty of things to do

A piece of art I contemplated buying aboard my cruise.
A piece of art I contemplated buying aboard my cruise. (Photo by Benét J. Wilson/The Points Guy)

My biggest fear from the onset was being bored to tears during the ship’s days at sea, but there was no need to worry. In fact, there was so much to do, some days I actually went to my cabin to nap and watch endless episodes of “The Love Boat” (hosted by Gavin MacLeod, who played Capt. Merrill Stubing) to recuperate before evening activities.

I walked from one end of the ship to the other every morning. I sat and had long conversations with friends on the covered side decks. I played Mahjong with a group of Jewish grandmothers from Boca Raton. I sat in on an informal chat at the ship’s cozy sushi and wine bar about how to set up an LLC. I even caught up on my reading in the ship’s library. While I didn’t buy anything, I did enjoy the art auctions and lectures.

You haven’t really seen stars until you’ve gazed at them from the top deck of a cruise ship. As a wine lover, I enjoyed participating in tastings from vineyards around the world. The spa the day before we returned home was the perfect way to relax with a massage and facial. I watched the Matt Damon movie “The Martian” on a huge HD screen, lounging on deck chairs with blankets (it got a bit chilly at night), popcorn, hot chocolate and adult beverages. And I danced every night at the ship’s different nightclubs.

Related: Stream these 13 movies, television shows to get your cruise ship fix

Drool-worthy food and drinks

(Photo by Benét J. Wilson/The Points Guy)

Being a foodie, I took full advantage of all the dining options. While I enjoyed eating at the included dining room (where I met people I’m still in touch with), I also took advantage of the specialty restaurants on board.

I’m a huge fan of Los Angeles-based Umami Burger. The chef who founded it, Chef Ernesto Uchimura, created the Salty Dog, a gastropub on Princess ships that features upscale take on comfort food. I had The Ernesto burger made with a ground ribeye, short rib patty and grilled pork belly topped with gruyère cheese, caramelized kimchi, beer-battered jalapeño and charred onion aioli —all on a brioche bun. Drink options included a variety of global wines, international beers and craft cocktails.

(Photo by Benét J. Wilson/The Points Guy)

When you get a chance to eat at Crown Grill, chosen by USA Today as the "Best Cruise Ship Steakhouses,” you don’t pass up the opportunity -- even with a $29 surcharge. I had a perfect ribeye steak, served with a loaded baked potato and my choice of specialty salt (Hawaiian black, applewood smoked and Himalayan pink). I was too full to enjoy dessert, but I did enjoy the wine pairings with each course.

You will never starve on a cruise since there are myriad food options available, from hot dogs to haute cuisine.

Bonus: A Global Entry line

We all know how long the lines can get when people are disembarking. On both of my cruises, I was able to glide through, thanks to a dedicated Global Entry line. That quick access even allowed me to catch an earlier Southwest Airlines flight home after my second cruise.

Bottom line

The author on her Celebrity cruise. (Photo by Benét J. Wilson/The Points Guy)

If you’ve followed TPG’s timely cruise coverage, you know most of the world’s cruise ships are docked through at least the end of 2020, with some even being relegated to the scrap heap. That being said, cruising will return at some point. If you have a bucket list of travel to go through, you should consider adding a cruise. You won’t be sorry!

Related: Exclusive: Carnival Corp. CEO shares thoughts on the future of cruising

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Cons

  • Steep annual fee
  • Difficulty meeting $15,000 welcome offer for smaller businesses
  • Limited high-bonus categories outside of travel
  • The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com, and 1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
  • Earn 1.5X points (that’s an extra half point per dollar) on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year.
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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
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Rewards Rate

5XGet 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com
1.5XEarn 1.5X points on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year
1X1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
  • Intro Offer
    The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.

    Earn 150,000 points
    120,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $695
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Good, Excellent

Why We Chose It

It's hard to find a card that competes with the mile-long list of benefits that come with the Amex Business Platinum. While it's certainly not the card for the average consumer, a business owner with tons of expenses -- especially related to travel -- will find this card incredibly valuable. This card is similar to the consumer version that Amex offers, but with more business-oriented perks around statement credits and earning rates that are a better fit for business owners.

Pros

  • An up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee every four to five years
  • Up to $400 annual credit for eligible U.S. Dell purchases (enrollment required)
  • Gold status at Marriott and Hilton hotels (enrollment required)
  • Access to the Fine Hotels & Resorts program and Hotel Collection
  • Extended warranty protection
  • International Airline Program and Cruise Privileges Program

Cons

  • Steep annual fee
  • Difficulty meeting $15,000 welcome offer for smaller businesses
  • Limited high-bonus categories outside of travel
  • The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com, and 1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
  • Earn 1.5X points (that’s an extra half point per dollar) on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year.
  • Unlock over $1,000 in annual statement credits on a curation of business purchases, including select purchases made with Dell Technologies, Indeed, Adobe, and U.S. wireless service providers.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year for checked baggage fees, lounge day passes, and more at one selected airline.
  • $189 CLEAR® Credit: Use your Card and get up to $189 back per year on your CLEAR® membership. CLEAR® is available at more than 50 U.S. airports and stadiums.
  • The American Express Global Lounge Collection® can provide an escape at the airport. With more than 1,400 airport lounges across 140 countries and counting, you have more lounge location options than any other credit card on the market as of 9/2021.
  • $695 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.